Uganda Airlines back on the cards
Having operated without a national airline following the liquidation of Uganda Airlines for over two decades, the Government of Uganda is now seriously towing with the idea of reviving the national carrier. Uganda Airlines as a corporate entity was liquidated in 2001 under the weight of huge debts incurred from its management inefficiencies. Pundits say the airline failed not because business was bad, but more because of bad management, coupled with the liberalization and privatization sweep at the time, that gave the Government of Uganda a good reason to lose interest in keeping the airline alive.
Following the collapse of the national airline, Uganda has courted several private sector players to take the place of the national airline, but with unsuccessful attempts. In the last two decades nearly ten airlines, driven by the private sector have started and collapsed in Uganda. The most recent victim was Air Uganda (2007-2014), run by the Agha Khan Fund for Economic Development. Before Air Uganda other attempts at running quasi-national airlines included: Africa One (2000-2004), Alliance Air (1995-2000), East African Airways (2002-2007), Royal Daisy Airlines (2005-2010), Victoria International Airlines (2006-2007).
(Photo of Uganda Airlines Boeing 707-320C 5X-UAC in Oct 1987 by Aldo Bidini )
Recent media reports quote President Yoweri Museveni as saying the country cannot afford to run without a national airline amidst the exorbitant charges that regional and international airlines are charging for flights to Uganda. The other factor is that in the context of Uganda’s fledgling oil industry, the country needs a direct connection to the rest of the world to attract high profile business interests and expertise. Currently Uganda is only fed by interconnection flights from the rest of the world- mainly via Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Amsterdam. In October British Airways stopped flights from Heathrow to Entebbe- their only direct flight to Uganda. The only direct flight to Entebbe from any major European city now remains only KLM from Amsterdam.
For a long time Kenya Airways has been the major player to Uganda, via Nairobi. The Entebbe-Nairobi route has been one of the most expensive in the region- with Kenya Airways charging average US$400 return ticket over the last 5 years.
Critics say Kenya Airways did this deliberately to frustrate tourists that would have wanted to connect to visit Ugandan sites from Nairobi. Kenya Airways has also in the past been accused of trying to kill any other airline that ventured on the Entebbe-Nairobi route, because it has been one of its most lucrative routes.
Recent local media reports quoted the Uganda’s State Minister of Transport Dr. Stephen Chebrot as saying that the Government has hired a consulting firm, Ernst & Young to perform feasibility study for the revival of Uganda Airlines and that the results were astounding-meaning the feasibility indicators are reading very positive.
Fred Ogene, the Executive Director of Uganda Development Corporation, the strategic investment company of the Government of Uganda, and itself a recent revival as saying that the Ministry of Transport is in advanced stages of preparing a cabinet paper that will be discussed by the government to get a final nod for the revival of the Airline.
Government plans to invest US$300 million to revive the airline. This comes fast on the heels of another proposed invest of US$400 by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority to renovate and expand airports around the country, including Entebbe International Airport.